Monday, July 15, 2013
About seidhr - what is it?
5 years ago I would have started quoting sagas and the edda now. But all my references are locked up in an old PC that crashed a long time ago. And I'm happy for it!
Yes it's good to read and yes it's very good to know the lore. Without the hints in the sagas I would never have been able to reconstruct some old practises. Without all my books I would never have realized that there once was a genuine shamanic tradition in North Western Europe.
And there it is, the answer to the question: seidhr is a form of shamanism practised in Northern Europe during the Viking age. Hah!
The thing with shamanism is you can read and write about it as much as you like, but you will never be able to understand it unless you start practising it yourself. I was already practising shamanic techniques, when I started to discover seidhr. Had I not, I would probably not have been able to recognize the hints I found in books. Read old fairytales - the original ones, not the Disney versions- and sometimes, it is just like reading a trance journey journal!
So what did I find in the sagas and the eddas?
I found stories about female clearvoyants traveling around the country, to answer people's questions. They would perform elaborate rituals, involving a platform or high seat, a staff and special songs.
I found stories about shapeshifting, weather magic, supernatural guides, journeys to the realm of the dead, talking to dead people, healing songs, sitting outside searching for a vision.
I found stories about carving magical formulas and singing songs of power. Wait a minute ...... I can hear some people's thoughts - yes I am clairvoyant. Some readers are thinking now: " hey, this is something different, this is about runes and galdr, this has nothing to do with seidhr! Seidhr is about sneaky, cunning, feminine tricks and vague things like trance. Galdr is proud and honest manly magic, keep your hands off evil witch!"
Well, after studying and most of all practising magic for about 25 years, this witch is convinced that there is no such thing as a strict line between different kinds of magic. Not between 'white' and 'black', not even between ceremonial and shamanic and certainly not between seidhr and galdr.
In my opinion, based on a lot of practical experience, galdr is part of seidhr and trance is part of galdr. It is impossible to work any kind of magic effectively without altering you state of consciousness. In other words: you are in some kind of trance while working magic, weather you like it out not. Singing runes is just one of many ways to use your voice to state 'Your Will' and singing is imho the most important technique used in seidhr.
I promise I will write more about magical song another time.
Back to what I found.
I read Ginzburg's books about the Benedanti in Italy and after that accounts of the witch trials in the Netherlands. Then I studied local folk tales and legends. And all of it, sagas, eddas, witch trials, folk tales pointed towards the same thing: a tradition of trance journeying and communing with otherworldly beings.
It all pointed to an old, now forgotten, European shamanic tradition. And the sagas gave the most complete accounts of it.
So how do I practise seidhr?
Some of the following I do on a daily basis, some of it I don't practise anymore, due to circumstances:
Singing healing songs
Communing with nature spirits
Going into deep trances holding a staff
Journeying to the realm of the dead
Working rune magic
Sitting on burial mounds to commune with the Ancient Ones
Sitting on a high seat answering questions
Horsing spirits and Deities
(Horsing is to allow to be possessed by a being who has no material body)
I do play drums again now, I just love to play them. But I never touched my drum while I was exploring seidhr. I don't need a drum or rattle anymore to enter a trance, softly singing while holding my staff, brings me faster and deeper into a trance than anything else.
My favorite way of journeying is in bed, using the 'twilight zone' between wake and sleep, I think this was the most common way to journey for the old European witches /shamans.
More than 700 words already and I feel I haven’t even started yet.
This is just a broad outline for people who never heard about seidhr before. Most people who already know about it, will most probably not agree with some things I say. That’s ok.
This is my vision after many years of studying, trying, working, failure and succes. I know many people interested in Norse Tradition love to quote sources, and debate semantics. I used to be like that too (and I still love a good discussion sometimes) But I left behind theory to focus on practise only and it’s not important to me anymore to remember Who Wrote What Where. What matters to me now is what I learned and what I can do with this knowledge.